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J Exp Med. 2010 Jan 18;207(1):101-15. doi: 10.1084/jem.20091385. Epub 2009 Dec 21.

VEGF-A expression by HSV-1-infected cells drives corneal lymphangiogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA.


Inflammatory lymphangiogenesis plays a crucial role in the development of inflammation and transplant rejection. The mechanisms of inflammatory lymphangiogenesis during bacterial infection, toll-like receptor ligand administration, and wound healing are well characterized and depend on ligands for the vascular endothelial grow factor receptor (VEGFR) 3 that are produced by infiltrating macrophages. But inflammatory lymphangiogenesis in nonlymphoid tissues during chronic viral infection is unstudied. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection of the cornea is a leading cause of blindness and depends on aberrant host immune responses to antigen within the normally immunologically privileged cornea. We report that corneal HSV-1 infection drives lymphangiogenesis and that corneal lymphatics persist past the resolution of infection. The mechanism of HSV-1-induced lymphangiogenesis was distinct from the described mechanisms of inflammatory lymphangiogenesis. HSV-1-elicited lymphangiogenesis was strictly dependent on VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 signaling but not on VEGFR-3 ligands. Macrophages played no role in the induction of lymphangiogenesis and were not a detectable source of VEGF-A. Rather, using VEGF-A reporter transgenic mice, we have identified infected epithelial cells as the primary source of VEGF-A during HSV-1 infection. Our results indicate that HSV-1 directly induces vascularization of the cornea through up-regulation of VEGF-A expression.

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